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Remembering Dennis Piluri

Dennis Piluri, age 69, of Scottsdale, Arizona, passed away on January 5, 2019, in Phoenix. At the time of his passing, he was the proud owner of Great Western Sales, along with his brother, Robert. Dennis, Robert and Great Western, an organic fertilizer distributorship, have long supported the eco-agriculture movement. Their product, Organic Gem, has reached farms around the world.

Dennis touched everyone he met with his warm wit, loyalty and exemplary character. Continue Reading →

Book excerpt: Albrecht’s Foundation Concepts Vol. I

Front cover image for the book Albrecht's Foundation ConceptsDr. William A. Albrecht was Professor of Soils and Chairman of the Department of Soils at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture. Through his extensive experiments with growing plants, soils and their effect on animals, he sustained his theory and observation that a declining soil fertility, due to a lack of organic material, major elements, and trace minerals – or a marked imbalance in these nutrients – was responsible for poor crops and in turn for pathological conditions in animals fed deficient feeds from soils. Within this book – volume 1 of his many collected papers – are articles on topics such as “Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition,” “Soil Acidity is Beneficial, Not Harmful,” “Trace Elements and the Production of Proteins,” “Soils, Nutrition, and Animal Health,” and much more.

The excerpt below dives into the topic of soil fertility and the problems that occur when fertility is low. Continue Reading →

Setting the Table to Optimize Fertilizers, Soil Amendments

By using detailed measurements and specifically formulated procedures for controlling nutrient excesses and deficiencies in soils, it is possible to define, measure and manage soil fertility to help grow crops of the highest quality.

Corn leavesWhether trees, vines or cane crops, when it comes down to fertility, there are three very specific considerations that woody plants need to perform at their very best. The same is true for vegetables, grasses, legumes and small grain crops. Those needs are adequate water infiltration, proper environment for soil life and the correct amount of nutrients to supply that life and the crop via plant root uptake.

It is a big mistake to consider that just adding enough fertilizer to grow the crop is what determines soil fertility. There is far more to it than that, and if not correctly understood this can be very costly to those trying to survive and profit from such land. On the other hand, once these principles are understood and put into practice, it is like finding the road map to building up land for achieving its top performance. Continue Reading →

Book excerpt: Eco-Farm by Charles Walters – The Soil-Life Connection

Acres U.S.A. founder Charles Walters wrote Eco-Farm: An Acres U.S.A. Primer to be the definitive guide to eco-farming. That includes managing farm and ranch soil fertility, crops, fertilizers, weeds, insects and more while avoiding dangerous chemicals.

The excerpt below discusses the importance of maintaining the microorganisms and other lifeforms within the soil by understanding and working with the soil food web.

Continue Reading →

Pastured Pigs — A Primer

Raising livestock on pasture isn’t new, but with the advent of confine­ment livestock operations and the industrialization of meat production, chickens, cows and pigs were moved inside and shut off from the natural world. Feed, water, pharmaceuticals and intensively managed animals liv­ing in man-made environments some­how became the norm. Getting these animals back outdoors has become the goal for many farmers, as well as consumers.

Young pigs with portable waterer in a tall pasture system at Fortner Farm in Moravian Falls, North Carolina.

Many issues associated with con­finement — manure management, odors, water pollution, disease due to crowded conditions — are the result of too many animals and not enough space. Likewise, managing livestock on pasture means respecting the limits of the land, understanding the ani­mals’ natural behaviors and properly managing both.

“As with any other livestock, out­door pigs, when not appropriately managed, can elicit damage to their environment,” said Silvana Pietrose­moli, research associate, North Caroli­na State University, Alternative Swine Research and Extension Project.

Pigs root in the soil, and this natu­ral behavior is often maligned as the reason pigs aren’t able to be pastured successfully. But rooting behavior is controllable and can be beneficial to pastures, too. Wallowing is another pig behavior which can have detri­mental environmental consequences. Soil compaction is another concern, and pigs produce a lot of manure. Continue Reading →

Detecting and Understanding Stray Voltage

All stray voltage is unintentional and undesirable, yet it is extremely common. In fact, it would be rare to find a farm or home without it, usu­ally not in a good location. The main culprit, even though there are several variations of causation, is that with all standard 120 volt wiring we only have one hot wire, one neutral wire and a ground wire.

If the neutral wire is in­adequate or if there is a weak or failed connection, the electrical current ar­riving on the hot wire must return to the source in some manner, which means it will try to go through any and all other objects that will conduct electricity. This undesirable flow of electrons can be via the earth, metal buildings, metal stanchions, fences or other objects.

The motor on a center pivot irriga­tion tower had been experiencing a tiny short in the wiring recently on a Midwestern farm. It had been this way for several weeks, but it was still working, and as you know there’s never enough time to do everything on the farm. However, the sand filter on the irrigator was also full, and this function needed emptying. The farm­er was up on a metal ladder opening the overflowing trap to clean it out. It was safe, because all the pumps were switched off — except for what he did next, which was to instruct his wife to turn on the pump in order to flush the sand. It was a fatal mistake, as 480 volts surged through the system, instantly killing the farmer. Continue Reading →